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Preliminary Assessment of the Flow of Used Electronics, In Selected States: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin
Richardson, T., E. Sahle-Demessie, C. Lee, S. Al-Abed, AND C. Northeim. Preliminary Assessment of the Flow of Used Electronics, In Selected States: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-16/201, 2016.
This report is the first stage study of EPA/ORD's efforts to understand the flows of used electronics and e-waste by reviewing the regulatory programs for the selected states and identifying the key lessons learned and best practices that have emerged since their inception.
Electronic waste (e-waste) is the largest growing municipal waste stream in the United States. The improper disposal of e-waste has environmental, economic, and social impacts, thus there is a need for sustainable stewardship of electronics. EPA/ORD has been working to improve our understanding of the quantity and flow of electronic devices from initial purchase to final disposition. Understanding the pathways of used electronics from the consumer to their final disposition would provide insight to decision makers about their impacts and support efforts to encourage improvements in policy, technology, and beneficial use. This report is the first stage of study of EPA/ORD's efforts to understand the flows of used electronics and e-waste by reviewing the regulatory programs for the selected states and identifying the key lessons learned and best practices that have emerged since their inception. Additionally, a proof-of-concept e-waste flow model has been developed to provide estimates of the quantity of e-waste generated annually at the national level, as well as for selected states. This report documents a preliminary assessment of available data and development of the model that can be used as a starting point to estimate domestic flows of used electronics from generation, to collection and reuse, to final disposition. The electronics waste flow model can estimate the amount of electronic products entering the EOL management phase based on unit sales data in combination with estimates of years of useful life and average product weights. The model estimates e-waste at the state level by using the gross domestic product as a proxy for the distribution of product sales across individual states. The study showed that although collection occurs within state boundaries, the recycling process involves transboundary movement of used electronics. Depending on the scale of the recycling operation, the process could involve the receipt of used electronics across state lines for processing and could be preprocessed; disassembled components could be sold to a tertiary processor in another location. Due to the dynamic nature of the recycling industry and the commodities markets, the flow of e-waste may frequently change, which requires flexible and adaptable flow tracking. The current proof-of-concept version of the e-waste flow model provides national, regional, and state-level e-waste estimates. These estimates are intended to assist the key stakeholders in their understanding of electronic material flows. However, there are several recommended next steps that are critical to continued refinement of the model. These next steps can be categorized into three areas that include improved functionality, calibration using other data sets, and the development of modules for evaluating transport of e-waste flows across state and national boundaries.